Croatia to deepen ties with China

By Ling Yuhuan Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-28 1:28:01

Croatia, the youngest member of the EU bloc, seeks to deepen cooperation with China and will become another door to Europe for Chinese investors, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic told the Global Times in an exclusive interview earlier this month.

Despite differences in terms of geography and population, Josipovic described bilateral relations between Croatia and China as "really excellent." However, the president conceded that economic relations between the two nations are "not so good as they can be."

Josipovic said that Croatia needs to make changes to adapt its economy to the EU and had probably focused more on Europe. However, he added that there are grounds for better economic cooperation with China.

Admitting that Croatia has not been particularly successful in attracting foreign investors, the president said a priority for the Croatian government will be facilitating visa applications for Chinese nationals to Croatia.

Rijeka, Croatia's largest seaport, provides "a very good new opportunity" for Chinese companies, Josipovic said. In the past, Josipovic explained, companies trading between Shanghai and Central Europe found it easiest to go through Amsterdam or Spain ports, even though those options took more time than trading through Rijeka or Slovenia's Kopar port. Now Chinese shipping group COSCO has opened talks with Croatia over investment in developing the port.

Improving relations with neighboring countries and becoming a member of the EU were his two most important goals upon assuming the presidency in 2010, Josipovic said.

Calling the EU an "important club of successful countries," the president said that the process of applying for and negotiating EU membership had already pushed Croatia to become a better society before July 1 this year, when Croatia formally joined the club.

Discussing trade between China and the EU, Josipovic insisted that, though there are complaints from both sides, "good relations and mutual understanding will lead to some compromise." The president went on to add, "In my opinion, it's very important to establish universal and fair rules for trade between China and the European Union."

Turning to the other of his two key goals, Josipovic said Croatia's relations with neighboring countries are becoming much better. Admitting that distrust of Serbia still exists, especially among those who suffered in the Croatian War of Independence (1991-95) fought between Croat and Serb forces, the Croatian president said bilateral cultural, economic and even military exchanges have increased greatly in recent years. Josipovic added that he will "definitely" support Croatia's neighbors, including Serbia, in their bids to join the EU.

"It's in our national interest to have stability in the region and a friendly surrounding," Josipovic said. "Definitely, the best way to have a friendly surrounding is to have the same values and standards, to be together in the EU."

On Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 despite Belgrade's opposition, the Croatian president said that Croatia is trying to have good relations with both sides and not interfering with their relations. Kosovo's independence is, he said, "the reality," noting that many other European countries had recognized Kosovo.

Josipovic added that Croatia is trying to support Serbia and to support both sides to negotiate.

"Probably Serbia is not going to recognize Kosovo soon or even never. Who knows? I cannot predict it. But it's very important they have good relations," he said.

Posted in: Diplomatic Channel

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